You thought it would be a good idea to teach your son how to drive a stick-shift. Three hours later, you never made it past first gear, your clutch is almost dead and you’re feeling a little motion sick. Your teenagers are used to automated everything – websites and books, food and money – so they may not get that driving is a manual activity that comes with a lot of responsibility.
But that’s the catch, isn’t it? Your 15- or 16-year-old y son or daughter has been bugging you for the past year, wanting to drive. You’ve been bugging them to do something responsible for once. Maybe teaching your offspring to drive is a two-way street. Maybe allowing them to drive will teach them how to be responsible.
When is the right time?
No two teens mature at the same rate. Some teenagers go to college when the rest are still in high school. Some teens get part-time jobs while others can barely make it to class on-time. So sometimes, it’s hard to know whether your child is responsible enough to drive. Until kids turn 18, it’s ultimately up to the parents to make that choice.
Does your teenager make poor decisions? Does he ignore your orders and fail to follow-through on chores, homework and other obligations? If so, he may not be quite ready for the responsibility of driving.
You covered potty-training, speaking and walking – but you don’t have to teach your kids how to drive. Enroll your teen in a driver’s education course, so she can have one-on-one training. Letting someone else teach your child to drive also is good for preserving the parent-child relationship. The last thing you want is to get into an argument about your child’s parallel-parking ability when he’s driving.
Many states Graduated Drivers Licensing laws, which will require a teen to complete more supervised driving beyond driver’s ed. One perk for you, if you live in a GDL state, is that your teen can be your personal chauffeur when you need to make a quick trip to the store.
Be strict, but fair
If your teenager isn’t ready to drive – he or hasn’t passed his road test, or demonstrated his ability to be responsible – that’s OK. But you need to explain to him what steps need to be taken before you will again let the keys out of your grasp.
Create a plan or an informal contract with your teen and stick to it. If, in the coming months, your teen begins to show responsible behavior and follow through with the expectations you’ve set about driving, then you should him take another stab at that driving test.
Don’t let your fear get in the way of your teenager’s driving license. Like it or not, your teen needs to learn how to drive at some point, and having another member of the household who’s licensed to drive can come in pretty handy, when you’ve got family members who need to be in different places at different times. Think of how much you could accomplish if you didn’t have to drive your kid to soccer practice!